MON8104 – Manchester to Kittila

Santa Sisters 1This review is part of a series about my experience of my first ever package holiday – a trip to Lapland. You can find out more about our trip here.

I had driven down to Manchester the night before our flight. Due to a number of factors, we arrived at the Hilton Manchester Airport a lot later than planned. It felt like I had only been asleep for 15 minutes when the alarm woke me up at 05:00 – it’s probably fair to say that I was a bit grumpy.

The hotel shuttle dropped us off at Departures (which makes sense as we were departing…) but a glance at the departure board informed us that our check-in desk was infact downstairs – in arrivals.

I managed not to moan (out loud anyway) and took the elevator down a level. As soon as the doors opened I worked out where we were going… there was a [person dressed up as a] reindeer in the departures area!

Along with the reindeer there was a husky (Santa’s friend apparently) and all of the staff were wearing Santa hats. The check-in area was decorated with tinsel and the Junior Travel Freaks (JTF’s) were handed backpacks with goodies as soon as they approached the desks.

I think I travel a lot. Over the years, chauffeurs, many customer service people, the odd camera crew and once even an airline board member have greeted me at check-in desks. A reindeer has never greeted me. A husky has never greeted me either, but I must say I enjoyed it! The JTF’s who were already pretty excited, were now about to explode!  The very first airport contact that I had with Monarch was very much a positive one.

There were four check-in desks open and not very many people – so there was no queue. Our boarding passes were issued and our bags were tagged without any dramas. I asked the agent how long the flight actually was, but alas she didn’t know (nor make any attempt to find out). This didn’t really matter though; we had what we needed and we headed for security.  Security was uneventful and I checked out the Servisair Executive Lounge prior to boarding.

I didn’t have any idea as to the size of Monach Airlines until I counted the many, many check-in desks in the main departure hall of Manchester airport. It looked like they had a fair number of flights going out on the same day as we were.

I think the departure gate was 22 and it was a bit manic with kids everywhere. The gate agent looked a bit new and was doing his best to read the right script from his ‘pack’ in his hands.

He first called for those that had paid for priority boarding at check-in. One family boarded and I wondered why this opportunity wasn’t offered to me at check-in. It was at this moment that I wondered why I hadn’t asked for seats at the front of the plane. This poor planning was most unlike me – I blame the excitement of seeing Rudolph.

The gate agent then made a call for special assistance passengers and a few old dears got on. Yes, you guessed it – he then made a call for all ‘families with children’ to board, which of course, was the rest of the plane. Lots of shoving and a bit of pushing ensued but we safely made it onboard where we were greeted with cabin crew wearing more Santa hats!

I stowed the passports and hand baggage safely away (beside the large box that was labeled ‘Frozen Meals’ which I assumed was for the return flight) and then sat down. I then stood up and tried to push the seat in front of me forward. I cannot describe how squashed my knees were. Yes, I am tall at 6ft 2 but this was, by a huge margin, the smallest amount of legroom I have ever had on a plane, anywhere. It really was not comfortable and I later found it was better to spend as much of the flight standing up as I could.

It should be noted that the pilot’s welcome announcement was suitable for the occasion with lots of talk of reindeer and Santa. I thought that this was another nice touch.

Take off etc. was fine and the first trolley offering made its way round the plane. There was the usual assortment of snacks with prices on par with EasyJet etc. We were served with a complimentary hot breakfast which was certainly adequate.

Then the fun began. I had been assigned row 28 (I would love to know how they assign seats) out of 30 so I was pretty near the back of the plane. After the crew had tidied up the breakfast mess it was time to sing. Really. The crew handed out Christmas song sheets and asked for willing children to make there way to the back of the plane. These lucky children were handed the PA microphone and the songs started.

I think this was a great idea – the kids loved it, the Captain mentioned that Santa must have heard us, and some of the parents even joined in. Personally, I would have preferred a seat at the front of the plane (away from the very, very, very loud noise) but then that’s probably just the grump in me.

The flight took around three hours (it landed on time) and of course we disembarked from the front. Passport control was very fast (despite being nearly last off the plane!) and once again we had some more dressed up characters to meet us.

You can find out what happened next on our trip here.

My first Monarch flight was certainly different to any other flight I had taken previously. From check-in to disembarkation, all of the staff that I encouraged were well and truly in the Christmas spirit and were trying really hard to make the trip that little bit more magical.

If I were to take the trip again, I would try and pay for extra legroom seats near the front of the plane. There was no power and no entertainment on these short flights, so you probably want to take something to keep everyone entertained.

[The return flight (MON8105) was pretty much the same, although thankfully for me, there was no singing…]

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